that my hair would fall out fast, so just before my first treatment we
cut my hair way back to a short back and sides do similar to what I wore
in my early twenties! It looked surprisingly good and I may well go back
to that when my hair grows back ;o) [Fortunately for me, it didn't
really start to fall out until after my second cycle.]
First chemo treatment:
I learned the first time round (the hard way!) to take
ALL the anti-nausea drugs I was prescribed - clearly I need them all!
There are three different lots of meds all attacking the nausea from
different directions and if taken regularly when instructed certainly do
the trick! I still feel pretty tired and off-colour in the first week,
but it's better than throwing up all the time, and once I come off the
meds I feel much better!
Flat ginger ale is a good final tonic
- amazing how that works!
Halfway through that first 3 week period I went
to a great course called "Look Good,
Feel Better". This is an internationally run course started in the USA
and I can't speak highly enough of it. Check
out what they do at http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org/.
About 25 women including myself attended (most
of who had already lost all their hair - mine was still fine for the time
being). I was the youngest there and most of the women looked quite
unsure and nervous at the beginning (one was even crying!?). We were were each given a complete range of makeup
(including toners, cleansers, the works, great brands including Lancome
etc) all products were coordinated to work with our own particular colouring. We were then
walked through step by step how to prepare and apply each layer and
finally the wig company presented what they have - using me as the
model! By the end everyone looked fabulous and was smiling
from ear to ear! I signed on to help out in future when I've completed
my own treatment as I thought it was such a wonderful thing! If anyone has
training in makeup I urge you to donate an occasional few hours of your time to this great
cause in your local area (contact your local Cancer Society to find out
more). They do need extra help!
Immediately after that course, I
went and got my free breast prosthesis which I am very happy with - the foam
pad I'd been using till then (while my scar healed) was losing it big time and travelling up my
chest - not a good look ;o) My prosthesis fits inside a special bra and
feels just like the real thing (both in weight and texture) - I even let
people feel it! Once its on I usually forget its there (except on hotter
Second chemo treatment:
My next treatment was delayed two days as my blood
count hadn't recovered sufficiently in time (I have one blood test every
week). While I was nervous about being sick again it was better going in
knowing exactly what to expect. The treatment takes about 2.5 hours, by
IV. Here's hoping my veins hold out, as I can only have them on my left
side now that I've had all the nodes on my right removed. It means the
poisonous chemo drugs keep being injected through one of just a few
veins (blood tests all come from the left side now too).
The treatment went much
better this time around, the extra anti-nausea drugs worked a
Its actually pretty sociable in the ward. Each time
I've met women my age and we have a good chat and laugh and exchange
stories and advice (I was mostly receiving the advice at this stage but
now I am starting to help the newbies!)
On this occasion I met 2 ladies who had
both already done the tummy muscles breast reconstruction that I was
expecting to do later - and they managed to put me right off that idea!
The operation is a major one that leaves you permanently numb across the
tummy (being now numb under my right arm, I'd rather keep my senses
By this stage my hair was pouring out of me - it was nice knowing I had
a good wig waiting for me!
I had the big head-shave
on 14 October, and cried a little bit when they started
shaving, but my friend Lissa was with me and gave me a cuddle,
then I was fine - The girls think I look a lot like my brother Richard (with
makeup ;o) with the hair off! Sadly, in hindsight, I shouldn't
have shaved the head. My scalp was very sensitive beforehand as the hair
fell out and afterwards the hairs that were left felt like knives when I
lay down at night etc. So I attacked my head with parcel tape - pulling
out all the loose hairs I could (glad no one was watching that show!!!).
That felt better, but if I ever have to
do this again in the future, I won't be head shaving!!!
the wig on now - everyone who knows me says it looks great, and
strangers don't take a second look at all, so I'm reassured that
it looks good and natural. Its not particularly comfortable on my
sensitive scalp so I alternate with scarves. The girls have accepted the
which is a relief as Emily kept saying "Take it off!" whenever I
put it on in the past, but when I came home with it properly on she
just said "Nice new haircut mummy!". Lydia asked to see what I
look like with my wig off, which I finally gave in to the
following morning (to which she advised me that she prefers me with the
hair on - ha ha, no kidding!). Brent still hasn't seen me bald and I'm planning on
keeping it that way! Have lots of scarves, sleeping and shower hats etc
to keep me looking decent at all times!
Here I am, halfway through my chemotherapy treatment, in full
Third chemo treatment:
My next treatment was delayed till the following Monday
as my blood count hadn't recovered sufficiently again (grrr!).
This third cycle was unfortunately not a good one...
Emily brought home a bad poo bug
(presumably from creche) which I of course
caught and got a temp etc, then she got a cold (which I got too)
then Lydia got severe ear infections after she caught the cold too
- the girls recovered well - I didn't! I was on watch
and antibiotics over the weekend as we knew my blood levels were
on the way down - had to take my temp every few
hours). The cold continued on in amplified form for the next 10
days and I had
to keep the girls home from Kindy all next week so they don't
bring home any other bugs to share with me! Those were not the best of
The highlight just before all this was Guy Faulkes,
which we enjoyed with a group of our friends at Lissa's house. Lydia
got into it this year for the first
time and loved the sparklers etc, however Emily really took fright again
and stayed indoors! This was my first year not setting them off (I'm a
big pyromaniac at heart ;o) and have to say it just wasn't the same! I
was wearing my (synthetic) wig and was wary that I could spontaneously
combust - next time I'll wear a scarf!!! Still it was great to get out
and have a fun night!
Fourth chemo treatment:
My next treatment was delayed till the Wednesday as my
blood count hadn't recovered sufficiently again (no
surprise really after previous delays etc).
So far so good - that pic of me above was taken 4 days after treatment.
This was my last dose of the AC - next time I'm onto a new recipe called
Taxotere (the expensive one!). Apparently the nausea won't be so bad,
but the bloods are worse (which probably means I'll be even more tired,
over the school holidays, yikes! One good thing is that my
hair is expected to grow back during this next stage of treatment - I'm
certainly looking forward to that!
sometimes joke that with all my gear off now I look like something out
of a Freddy Kruger movie -
Big scar where my breast used to be,
totally bald, eyebrows and lashes fading, pale skin, the list goes on -
but at least I got a free brazilian out of all this! But as soon as I
start putting on the layers I feel human and go out with my head held
high ;o) I've got this routine now where, if I'm feeling great I go out
all dolled up, if I feel awful I go out plain with a scarf, so people
leave me alone (and maybe give me the last spot in the lift etc ;o) Ha
ha! Seems to work pretty well!
I'm now starting to consider my options with that big scar of mine. We
initially decided I'd maybe reconstruct after all this however I'm
concerned that one implant will look wonky as I age, lose/gain weight
etc. I'm now thinking if I do
do that later on I'll remove the other breast at the same time (=
matching pair, and remove worry of more BC turning up later, having to
do more chemo etc). Never
thought I'd consider that! Still thinking - lots of time till that
decision can be made ;o)
This whole thing has been a strange and in
some ways enlightening experience. There are times when I actually
forget what I'm going through, its only when others ask me about it that
I remember! The support and help I have received has been wonderful. I realise how lucky I am, both to have this support, and to be able to
afford to do myself up nicely, and have all the treatment options
available to me. Many others don't and I think of them often and am
trying to make some changes on their behalf. I've written into a magazine already (the
letter was printed almost verbatim the following week - and we've just
seen evidence that this has caused some waves with our Health insurer!).
complete this treatment I am planning to do more, (targeting the
government if possible). I'm just dancing on
the high road as best I can at the moment and being very open about the
whole thing with whoever I talk to.